terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2015

The Spontaneous Horse: Understanding what liberation means from the horse’s point of view.

by Francesco De Giorgio & José De Giorgio-Schoorl

As horses are often seen as anxious, unpredictable animals, there is a fear to let them express themselves, convinced that this might be dangerous and that they will hurt themselves, or human involved, in unknown situations. They learn to live a life in which they wait for human commands, forgetting that they have their own true intention and unique interests. But the human focus on controlling their behaviour, actually makes them anxious and unpredictable animals. Which is a strange
vicious circle.
The same reasoning often leads to denying them their social behaviour. In our society horses live often in social isolation, where they can’t express themselves through social behaviour. But even when they live with other horses, the groups are usually not permanent, not familiar or familiar-like. With a lot of changing dynamics in these groups, their interaction is often focused on reactive and defensive behaviour. It is seen as ‘normal’ competitive behaviour. However, in family or family-like groups, these behaviours actually happen only in rare cases, not in random daily routine. Social behaviours in horse families are subtle, small gestures and often not much visible behaviours that have an important
cohesive function for a herd, as well as for a balanced individual development of each member of that herd.
Another very important group of spontaneous behaviours is investigative/explorative behaviour, fundamental for the correct development of cognitive functions. People often use methods and tools that deprive the horse of the opportunity to explore his context, other horses, and human as well. Horses are asked to pay attention to us, but in that moment they are actually distracted from the situation the horse self was focussed on.
The reduction of the spontaneous behaviour happens already during the initial training of young horses. In these moments the horses live a strong reduction of their natural spontaneous behaviours to improve instead behavioural expressions, which are functional anthropocentric desires. Operant conditioning applied during these moments (both negative or positive reinforcement) drastically reduces spontaneous behaviours and with that reduce equine welfare. The reactive behaviours that are trained instead are too often mistaken for freedom of expression in the human interaction, as most people are not aware of mental chains. The horse displays macro behaviours that please us from an anthropocentric point of view, but at the same time show micro signals of internal conflict.
It is fundamental learn how to give the horse the possibility to explore his own world and express spontaneous behaviour. Learn how to develop a coexistence without training, based on understanding of the socio-cognitive abilities of horses. Learn to be curious and open towards the expression of another, is fundamental for sound social-emotional experiences in a society where focus is more on performance then on relationships. Both human and horse should have the freedom to understand their internal motivation and mental reasoning, to process their own information, rather than being conditioned to respond to anthropocentric expectations. As liberation is a state of mind, also for horses.


Francesco De Giorgio (author - presenter)
Learning Animals, Study centre for Ethology and Zooanthropology

Born in 1965 in Italy, where he is a renowned biologist, ethologist and applied behavioural researcher, Francesco De Giorgio is specialized in equine and canine ethology. He is founder, developer and facilitator at the Learning Animals International Institute for Zooanthropology, where he focuses principally on the study of animal-human interaction, animal personal growth and rehabilitation. Graduating from Parma University in 1989, Francesco began his career as an independent field researcher, supporting several universities whilst indulging his lifelong passion for horses and dogs as an Equine and Canine Learning Professional - helping owners to enhance their relationships with animals.
Described by the former Director of the International School of Ethology (Erice, IT), Danilo Mainardi, as “a man who works with his head and his heart and his hands”, Francesco walks the talk - integrating scientific knowledge into ethical day-to-day practice.
A champion of equine and canine welfare, Francesco provides expert support for institutions occupied with animal Health and Welfare (e.g. in equine mistreatment cases), has served on a number of ethics committees, and acts as an advisor to courts and equine rehabilitation centres.
Both a speaker and lecturer, Francesco speaks regularly on ‘Cognitive Ethology in the Animal-Human Relationship’. He also lectures at several universities and has presented to numerous conferences and symposia on ethology, cognition and zooanthropology and published two books; The Horse- Human dictionary (italian) and The Cognitive Horse.

José De Giorgio-Schoorl (co-author)
Learning Animals, Study centre for Ethology and Zooanthropology
Francesco’s partner in both life and work, Dutch born José De Giorgio-Schoorl personifies the bridge between equine perception and human understanding. Their shared passion for horses and keen insight in social dynamics brought them together and today they live in the Netherlands with their eight horse companions, four dogs and two cats.
After many years of change adviser and personal development consultant, she is, today, a renowned proponent of the zooanthropological approach, working for the change in awareness and understanding of the Animal-Human Relationship.
As consultant and teacher at the Learning Animals Study centre for Ethology and Zooanthropology, José strives to improve people’s understanding of cognition and relationship dynamics, and in so doing to enhance their relationship with animals.
Contending that a firm grasp of equine cognition is the vital first step to understanding horses’ behaviour, José is a real force for change; inspiring and promoting fresh thinking in her writing and in her lectures and creating effective personal growth trajectories for individuals through free interaction with horses.
A regular guest lecturer and speaker in zooanthropology and personal growth, José has presented to conferences and symposia throughout Europe.

Learning Animals, Study centre for Ethology and Zooanthropology
info@learning-animals.org | www.learning-animals.org
0031 (0) 644834881 | Achterstraat 64, 5388TP Nistelrode, Nederland

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